Last time, I looked into the potential values of UFAs Darcy Kuemper and Sam Gagner. As we continue to dive into the list of notable unrestricted free agents, I wanted to take a look at some bigger fish. Again, all of my effort here is for the purpose of speculation and what I would like to see happen in the coming months, not necessarily prediction.
- Shattenkirk to the Stars
Okay, there may be a little bit of fan bias here, but I think this is still a very interesting possibility. With the Stars hiring of new/old/new head coach Ken Hitchcock, we could see defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and his old coach reunite from their time in St. Louis. Early reports seem to suggest that Shattenkirk is leaning toward a team in the Eastern Conference, but nothing is set in stone just yet. As far as Dallas goes, in the 2016-17 season, it never felt as if there was a defensive “core”. Young guys were rotated in and out, different players were scratched almost every night, and pairings were shuffled like cards. The Stars under Hitchcock will undoubtedly want to be a more consistent team defensively, and that consistency requires focus. Fortunately, Shattenkirk is someone I see who embodies this focus. Going forward, I will only be looking at Shattenkirk’s work on the Blues, as I believe it will be a better predictor of his performance under Hitchcock.
Once again, I would like to look at some graphs provided by www.hockeyviz.com
Above, what we are looking at is the 5v5 shots that St. Louis allowed with Shattenkirk off the ice (left), and Shattenkirk on the ice (right). The way we read this is blue is good for the team, red is bad. When Shattenkirk is on the ice, we see a lot more blue. This means that opposing teams are unable to shoot the puck as often when he is out. Looking through past seasons, we see this is a trend that has only gotten better. Even more simply put, Shattenkirk on the ice means fewer shots against. Not only fewer shots against, but fewer shots directly in front of the net. Do the Stars need this? I will answer that with one image representing John Klingberg.
Hitchcock has told the Dallas Morning News that he only wants to focus on the Stars remarkable 2015-16 season rather than this season, so I am only showing you the graph for Klingberg being on the ice in 2015-16. Remember when I said red was bad? Well, red in front of the net is worse than bad. While Klingberg will probably be playing better defense under Hitchcock, a much more solid set piece needs to be in place. Cue: Kevin Shattenkirk.
Stats aside, Shattenkirk has played under Hitchcock in the past. A young defense might not be able to handle that intensity without someone that’s able to talk them through it. Moneywise, I forsee a lot of availability. The defense in Dallas is very young and cheap, and a lot of cap space going toward expensive forwards may free up soon. Players like Sharp and Hemsky, while very pivotal in the past few years, may be on their way out, either to retirement or to one last NHL stop. This frees up millions for Dallas general manager Jim Nill to not only re-sign good young players like Radek Faksa, but explore new options as well. I believe Shattenkirk is a potential key player. If he goes for a deep cup run with his new team, the Washington Capitals, then I could see him asking for $5.25MIL USD and while this sounds like a lot, you get what you pay for. And the Stars need to get a lot.
- TJ Oshie to the Kings
I did not anticipate this edition to turn into a coverage of former Blues turned Caps so easily, but here we are. Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie is probably the highest profile skating UFA this season and I am not sure anyone knows exactly what should be done with him. Fans tend to get excited when they hear his name and remember his amazing shootout success in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but what can he really bring to an NHL team? Oshie is currently playing right wing on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin. If you aren’t aware of who they are, tune into the next Capitals playoffs game and look for the people scoring. If the Capitals make a deep playoff run, 30 year old Oshie could possibly ask for $6MIL USD on his next contract, and that may be reasonable. That said, the risks are high. Oshie played on one of the best lines in the regular season. I want to see if he is able to excel in a new system with new linemates and be worth his potential cost.
I have no doubt that Oshie is an incredibly talented player who will elevate any line that he is on to be successful. I wanted to see him go to a team that had very real core talent, but maybe needed an extra boost of goal scoring. This is why I selected the Kings for a possible destination. In 2016-17, the L.A. Kings boasted the highest Corsi percentage in the NHL. Like we saw last week, Corsi represents a ratio of possession versus your opponent. Basically, based on shot attempts, the Kings were at a 55% possession advantage for the season. Even more unbelievable is that while this was going on, the Kings managed to have to worst shot percentage in the league at 6.22%. This means that of all the shots making it to the net, only a little more than 6% went in (the NHL average was 7.65%). Back to T.J. Oshie, how can he help a team that possesses the puck more actually score more, and thus win more? Since 2008 in his time with St. Louis and Washington, Oshie has never had a season with a shooting percentage lower than 10%. This year he was up to 23%. While it is easy to point at the line and say he was carried to shooting success this year, we can establish that a return to normal for Oshie will still be a huge boost to the Kings offense. Shot percentage is certainly not everything, but it is a good place to start for predicting Oshie’s contribution in a much needed area.
Since the regular season has ended, the Kings front office has been totally rearranged. The general manager and head coach have both been relieved of duty and it is not quite clear what will happen next. It is anyone’s guess who will be hired on, but I believe there is an extremely talented pool of players in Los Angeles ready to start a fresh season under whatever new system comes about. The organization will take on a new look from the top down and I for one would be happy to see someone like Oshie take part in a new era.
Next time we will dive into the possibilities out west and what teams could benefit from some more veteran influence.
All other stats acquired from www.hockeyreference.com
Photo credit: Sports Illustrated and ESPN